Today’s candidate up for review for Hall of Fame consideration is Lee Smith. Smith was the closer for the Cubs, Cardinals, and Red Sox, and also played for the Yankees, Angels, Reds, Orioles, and Expos during his 18 year career.
478 career saves
11 seasons with 30+ saves
6 All Star Appearances
30.3 Career WAR
4 seasons with WAR of 3.0 or higher
The Case for Smith
Smith was considered one of the best closers during his era. He finished with 11 seasons of 30+ saves, including 3 in a row with 40+ saves.
The Case Against Smith
Smith’s career numbers outside of saves don’t really seem to point toward a dominant pitcher. His career ERA of 3.03, while not exorbitantly high, was not exactly dominant either.
Smith seems like a very unusual case to have to judge for the Hall of Fame. He was the all-time leader in saves for 13 seasons before being passed by Trevor Hoffman. He has more saves than all 5 current members of the Hall of Fame who spent a majority of their time as closers (Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Hoyt Wilhelm). He had 3 straight 40 save seasons toward the end of his career, and 11 seasons with 30 or more saves overall. He does not have the postseason resume that you would anticipate seeing out of a top level closer, only making two trips to the postseason, and his team losing in both. I think that the problem I keep running into is this: there’s nothing in his case that just stands out to me and screams “I’m a Hall of Famer.” And that seems to be how my vote goes with him.
MY VOTE: NO